Gov. Paul LePage will follow up on remarks in his State of the State speech by introducing legislation Tuesday that aims to crack down on drug dealing and drug abuse in Maine.
LePage is proposing that the state hire four new District Court judges, 14 investigative agents in the Department of Public Safety and four assistant attorneys general.
All of the new positions would be devoted to adjudicating, investigating or prosecuting cases involving illegal drugs.
LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said the governor’s proposal has received broad support in the law enforcement community but would cost an estimated $2.7 million to implement.
The bill’s principal sponsor is Sen. Gary Plummer, R-Windham.
LePage will be joined at a news conference in Augusta at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday by law enforcement officials including Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson and Roy McKinney, director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
“We must confront this troubling epidemic,” the Republican governor said in a news release Monday. “While some are spending all their time trying to expand welfare, we are losing the war on drugs.”
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, said she plans to attend the news conference.
“This office supports any help we can get in fighting drug trafficking in our state, diminishing the scourge that is heroin use and prescription drug abuse,” Mills said in a statement to the Portland Press Herald.
Bennett said LePage’s bill is currently being refined by the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Once it has gone through that process, it will undergo legislative review.
A copy of the proposal provided by Bennett says the bill would create four new District Court judge positions within the Judicial Department. The judges would be required to exclusively hear and decide drug-related criminal cases and would preside in Portland, Lewiston, Bangor and Presque Isle.
It would also provide funding for 14 investigative agent positions in the Department of Public Safety and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
And the bill would create four assistant attorney general positions “dedicated to prosecuting drug crimes.”
Mills pointed out that prosecution must not be a revolving door. “Treatment and prevention also need to be part of the solution,” she said.
“The governor understands that his bill is not a silver bullet,” Bennett said. “He understands that treatment and recovery are just as important.”
In his State of the State address, LePage said illegal drug use is “tearing at the social fabric of our communities.”
He said there were 927 drug-addicted babies born in Maine last year.
“Each baby addicted to drugs creates a lifelong challenge for the health care system, schools and social services,” the governor said.
LePage said in his speech that the state “must hunt down drug dealers and get them off the streets.”
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: